One thing you hear people talking about often is the attitude of the people living there. New Yorkers are stereotyped as being rude, folks from the South have a reputation for being hospitable, and I sometimes hear that Seattleites are standoffish.
The spirit of Oaxacans, however, is incredibly kind, generous, and open-hearted. So far I have yet to meet a native (or even a visitor!) who has been anything but amazing. In the market people offer you tons of free samples, and then (wonder of wonders!) sit back and chat with you rather than pushing you to buy. I have seen only ONE beggar -- people would rather be doing something for their community or their family. Everyone I have asked for directions, advice, or information (gracias Señora Panchita para su información de los frijoles!) has immediately offered it in a friendly and honest fashion -- including our taxi driver Humberto who told us how to take the bus!
It is easy to be overly critical of humanity -- I'm guilty of it myself -- and to feel that our societies are losing their basic goodness. In Oaxaca, at least, that is soundly refuted. I cannot imagine a more inspiring experience.